As humans, we often take it for granted that our dogs know exactly what we want them to do without us giving them any proper training or guidance. We’re also in the habit of telling our dogs what behaviours we don’t want rather than telling them what behaviours we would like or expect from them.
For instance one of the most common “problems” 99% of us have with our dogs is “jumping up” when we come home or have visitors around. Our dogs are so happy to see us they come tearing up the path or driveway, so excited, tails wagging, barking with joy and immediately jump up at us and sometimes nearly knock us off balance. Unfortunately, our automatic reaction is to raise our voices telling them “don’t jump” or push them down hoping this will make them stop.
Unfortunately, our dogs don’t recognize good or bad behaviour, they learn from the consequence of the behaviour they present, i.e. if they find the behaviour rewarding they will repeat it and if it is not rewarding to them they will cease doing it. Jumping up is largely attention-seeking behaviour, so when you shout at them or push them away guess what is happening – you are inadvertently rewarding him for jumping up. (He got your attention !) They think this is all part of the “game” so they continually jump up on you.
In fact what we should do is stand completely still, remain calm and ignore them and not make any eye contact with them. Easier said than done!
So let’s see what else we could be doing to teach them what we expect from them. One option is to teach your dog a mutually exclusive behaviour (MEB), so they can comply with your expectations.
The first thing you need to do is decide what behaviour you want instead of jumping up, dogs cannot multi-task e.g. they can’t jump up and sit simultaneously, so decide what you prefer. Do you want the dog to sit, down, hand touch or go “back” – this would be the MEB in preference to jumping up on you.
If your dog already has a solid sit or similar behaviour then use that cue when he approaches you or a visitor e.g. before the dog has the chance to jump up cue him “sit” and immediately reward him when he sits. Rewarding him for obeying (sitting) will make him more likely to sit next time round when cued to do so. The “sit” has now become more rewarding to him than jumping up.
Another option, especially if your dog does not have solid behaviour like the sit, is to start adjusting his behaviour as you arrive home. Have some treats at the ready, like viennas or pieces of chicken (which you can keep in a Tupperware in your car) and as you arrive home and your dog is tearing towards you, let him see you throwing some of these behind him so that he has to turn back and go and find them. Now you can proceed without being “jumped on”.
As soon as he has finished finding the treats he will start coming back towards you and whilst he is coming throw more treats either to the side or again behind him so off he goes again searching for them. This becomes a great “game” (in fact a good recall as well) coming to you, seeing treats being thrown and going to find them. Hopefully, he will be a wee bit calmer so as he is coming back to you start saying “sit” or “down” or “back” or whatever you would like him to do (the MEB) instead of jumping. He is now so focused on you he will start to do the behaviour you ask for and forget about the jumping up as he knows a nice reward is coming. This “game” can continue for a few minutes and then you can throw a handful of treats around the area you are in and walk calmly into your house whilst your dog is busy sniffing and getting all his rewards. This will now be your routine every time you or somebody comes home until he has learnt to sit immediately on command.
If your dog likes toys or balls, keep some in your car, and when you arrive have two or three balls in your hand as your dog comes towards you throw the one ball for him to go and fetch and as he comes back throw another one and so on making this another fun retrieve game. Apart from keeping him from jumping up on you, it is also giving him great exercise. The more accomplished he gets at the game you can ask him to bring the ball or toy to you or drop it at your feet whilst he stays in a solid sit. The options are endless.
Whatever you want your dog to do make it enjoyable for both of you and the result will be he will want to do the correct behaviour the minute he sees you.
Finally, pat yourself on your back for training your dog not to jump up and be very proud of just how well-mannered he has become and a pleasure to have around.